New Spring Fes­ti­val tra­di­tions emerg­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS -

The Spring Fes­ti­val travel rush, or chun­yun, when peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally re­turn to their home­towns from the places where they work to cel­e­brate the Lu­nar New Year, is the world’s largest an­nual hu­man mi­gra­tion. This year’s chun­yun be­gan on Feb 1 and will con­tinue through March 12.

For a long time, the tra­di­tion that one should re­turn to one’s home­town for fam­ily re­unions dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val has been a moral bur­den on Chi­nese who have mi­grated from the ru­ral ar­eas to cities in search of a bet­ter life. But as a re­cent re­port re­leased by a do­mes­tic tourism web­site in­di­cates, there are some new chun­yun trends emerg­ing, such as more Chi­nese fam­i­lies choos­ing to spend the Lu­nar New Year trav­el­ing to do­mes­tic re­sorts or over­seas des­ti­na­tions, and young peo­ple work­ing in big cities be­ing more in­clined to in­vite their par­ents to come to them for fam­ily re­unions.

Dif­fer­ent peo­ple in China may have dif­fer­ent ideas about Spring Fes­ti­val. But for young peo­ple work­ing far away from their home­towns in me­trop­o­lises such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Shen­zhen and Guangzhou, Spring Fes­ti­val fam­ily re­unions are not nec­es­sar­ily some­thing to look for­ward to. Aside from the chal­lenge of buy­ing an air or train ticket or mak­ing tir­ing long-dis­tance jour­neys by car, most of young peo­ple face a grilling about their per­sonal lives from rel­a­tives and friends such as “How much do you earn ev­ery month?”, “Do you have a boyfriend/girl­friend?” and “Have you bought a house ?”.

Giv­ing the chil­dren of rel­a­tives hong­bao, red en­velopes con­tain­ing cash, as New Year gifts, is also a heavy eco­nomic bur­den for young peo­ple whose in­come is usu­ally rel­a­tively low. Some com­plain months of wages go into hong­bao.

The re­verse chun­yun, in which par­ents in ru­ral ar­eas travel to visit their chil­dren in the cities and the pop­u­lar­ity of fam­i­lies cel­e­brat­ing Spring Fes­ti­val by trav­el­ing for a hol­i­day are wel­come trends, as if they con­tinue and be­come more pop­u­lar, they can re­lieve the pres­sure on the rail­ways and roads dur­ing the an­nual travel peak.

And these trends will in­evitably grow in pop­u­lar­ity as more fol­low suit, chal­leng­ing the long-cul­ti­vated Chi­nese be­lief that peo­ple should re­turn to their home­towns dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val.

As a mat­ter of fact, Spring Fes­ti­val has al­ready changed a lot with China’s eco­nomic and social devel­op­ment. As ur­ban­iza­tion has ac­cel­er­ated, and more and more peo­ple have mi­grated from the ru­ral ar­eas to the cities to work, it has nar­rowed the gap be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas, es­pe­cially in terms of life­style. For ex­am­ple, it used to be wide­spread habit in ru­ral China that fam­ily mem­bers stayed at home eat­ing jiaozi, or dumplings, for the Spring Fes­ti­val Eve din­ner, but now it has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar to or­der a full ta­ble of dishes at a restau­rant for such a fes­tive cel­e­bra­tion as peo­ple do in the cities.

Aside from re­unit­ing with par­ents and other fam­ily mem­bers, Spring Fes­ti­val has also been a rare op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to get to­gether with child­hood school­mates and friends to con­sol­i­date friend­ships and bonds. How­ever, one of ca­su­al­ties of the newly emerg­ing Spring Fes­ti­val trends will be these catch­ing-up get-to­geth­ers, which means the fes­ti­val will pri­mar­ily be­come just par­ent-chil­dren re­unions.

Chun­yun is chang­ing, and may even end one day, for many this will mean a hap­pier, more re­laxed and more con­sid­er­ate Spring Fes­ti­val.

The author is a Bei­jing-based film and cul­ture critic, and the ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished in South­ern Me­trop­o­lis Daily.

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